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For years, patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) found themselves fighting an uphill battle to get the attention they deserved. For many patients, the medical community and others viewed their symptoms as a laundry list of complaints that were not specific enough to be treated.

Many patients were outright dismissed with "It's all in your head." However, recently the CDC, with the help of the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America, began an initiative to inform the public, as well as healthcare professionals about this affliction that affects over one million people in the U.S.

Because there are no specific blood test or imaging studies that can pinpoint the diagnosis, CFS must be excluded from other medical conditions that could have similar clinical symptoms. So what are the hallmarks of CFS?

Basically, folks just don't feel right. Usually they have a combination of symptoms that last for more than six months. For example:

• Unexplained persistent fatigue not due to exercise.

• Impaired memory or concentration.

• Waking up tired, even after a long sleep.

• Muscle or joint pain without swelling.

• Persistent headaches.

• Sore throat or lymph node tenderness.

Many researcher specialists are still not sure about the exact cause of CFS, but one area of interest is our immune system. Special attention is being given to the way people recover from viral illnesses, and why some of those people then go on to develop CFS. There are some known diseases that have similar symptoms and must be ruled out, including mononucleosis, lyme disease, lupus, and fibromyalgia.

Even though there is no "silver bullet" treatment available, there are certain things that people can do to help with their symptoms:

• Find the right healthcare professional. You need someone who understands your symptoms and can do the right tests to separate them from any underlying medical conditions.

• Find out about pharmaceutical options. Certain medications could help, especially with symptoms like muscle pain, sleeping problems, or depression.

• Get a good support system from family and friends, and make sure they understand what you are feeling is a real disease, not just something in your imagination.

• Exercise regularly, and monitor your weight. I know it is easier said than done, but with the right support system it might just work.

• Eat a healthy, balanced diet. I like organic diets to help boost the immune system. Stay away from junk food, and seek out foods that are high in Vitamin C, B-complex, and essential oils.

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